Bank of America’s Pragna Mehta is an amazingly accomplished professional in the field of data analytics — the type of senior thought leader in technology who is a perfect fit for the bank’s yearlong Leader on Loan program.
It’s why Mehta has been working full-time at Liberty Science Center as its interim data and analytics strategist, someone charged with helping one of the country’s premier science museums improve its processes and increase its output.
A few weeks ago, she showed she’s still something else — a kid at heart.
While walking into the main foyer at the center, Mehta realized one of LSC’s latest — and coolest — exhibits was there, just waiting for someone to take advantage of all it could offer. Mehta did.
“The exhibit features a facade of a New York brownstone with a mirror that’s angled over it,” she said. “When you’re standing there and you look up at the mirror, it looks like you’re hanging off of the balcony of a New York brownstone.”
A unique experience, for sure.
“It’s really cool,” she said. “It’s art, it’s science. I’ve been seeing the kids go on it and have so much fun. I was fortunate enough one morning to have a whole exhibit to myself. I was able to climb on it and had a really great time. It was a great experience.”
Mehta feels the same way about Bank of America’s Leaders on Loan program.
In another example of how the bank aims to help the community it serves, it loans out senior leaders to organizations that would benefit from a fresh set of eyes or a new business perspective. Mehta will do that for a year at LSC, in a position that is fully funded by the bank.
The program, created in 2017 with four organizations, has expanded across the country with a variety of organizations to help advance economic opportunity and other philanthropic priorities in the communities where they live and work. Places such as Liberty Science Center.
LSC’s rapid growth spurt over the past decade — expanding its footprint and reaching nearly 1 million visitors annually — has led to exciting strategic and operational challenges. Mehta will take on a strategy role at the interactive Science Center, working with an internal team to implement workflows designed to consolidate data management tools.
Mehta will help the nonprofit’s business tactics by providing suggestions on how to prioritize projects, creating useful dashboards and metric-driven trackers, and building budget-based solutions that cover LSC’s full portfolio and scope of work.
“My background in technology, data analysis and project management gives me the opportunity to use my entire toolbox of knowledge and skills to help Liberty Science Center create meaningful long-term solutions and achieve organizational goals,” she said. “I am thrilled to be part of the LSC team for the next 12 months and looking forward to gaining tremendous insights into this inspiring nonprofit and the communities it serves.”
Here’s what she likes even more: the warm welcome she has received from LSC.
Mehta knows it’s not easy to have an outsider step into an organization. LSC’s leadership has welcomed her with open arms, she said.
“The people here could not have been more welcoming,” she said. “They’ve been very positive. They’ve been very open to any suggestions that I have.”
Like any good scientist, they’ve welcomed new ideas, Mehta said.
“When you’re in the weeds with something, sometimes it’s hard to step back and look at something with a fresh set of eyes,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been able to do. I’ve been able to look at things in a different way. They’ve been very receptive to hearing some new ideas.
“It’s a unique opportunity.”
One that Alberto Garofalo, the Bank of America market president for New Jersey, has been glad to give. He sees it as a true win-win situation.
“By partnering with Liberty Science Center, Bank of America is committing to the growth, development and success of LSC programs that will inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and innovators,” he said. “As one of New Jersey’s most popular learning centers, the bank understands the importance of STEM, and we are confident that Pragna’s expertise will make a positive impact within the organization for years to come.”
Bank of America has shown its support in many ways over the years, much to the appreciation of LSC CEO Paul Hoffman.
“Liberty Science Center is grateful for the many ways Bank of America has embraced our mission,” Hoffman said. “From preparing high school students for modern STEM careers through our High Schools of the Future initiative to our work together on LSC’s SciTech Scity expansion designed to turn leading-edge business ideas into a reality that makes the world a better place, our collaboration has been both long and impactful.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Pragna to our team through BofA’s Leader on Loan program, and know her focus on business tactic analysis and reporting will propel us forward in our next phase of growth.”
And in the process, make her feel like a kid again — engrossed and enamored with the possibilities that comes with science.
“When I walk around and see the kids light up when they learn something new is so exciting,” she said. “I think it brings out a little bit of the kid in you, as well, because, as an adult, you sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid and to learn.”
Mehta said it reminds of her days gone by, when she just had to take her now-grown kids to LSC.
“When you see the joy in the kids’ faces, it takes you back a little bit,” she said. “And that’s a great thing.”